A big surprise happened today. I pulled variant data for the US from the CDC and plotted it. When I plotted a graph showing relative proportions of each variant, P1 and P2 were present again. These had pretty much disappeared from the radar in 2021. They are the black regions on the left and bottom right of this graph.
Why is this important? I can come up with three reasons that this might be happening.
- An immunosuppressed person who never cleared the infection reintroduced it into the community.
- An animal reservoir of it reintroduced it into the human population. This seems the least likely because it seems like this would have occurred sooner with other variants.
- My biggest concern is that SARS-CoV-2 may remain somewhere in tissue and reemerge under the right conditions. We see something similar with VZV, which causes chickenpox initially, but the virus remains within the person and can later reemerge as shingles. If that is truly the mechanism, we have much longer to go with this virus than I had originally thought at the beginning of the pandemic. I expected it to be about a 5-8 year problem at the time.
The reemergence of Delta or a hybrid has been hypothesized as well. We really need to be bracing for the long haul of the pandemic. Until we get a much more effective vaccine that can be distributed globally, we are going to face repeated waves of new, and possibly reoccurring variants. That makes it all the more important to keep up to date on vaccination, using respirators while in the presence of others, increased ventilation and filtration, and social distancing measures.
There are many indicators that we are entering the next surge in the US, but most people seem oblivious, due to the lack of messaging from the CDC and mass media sources.
Climbing COVID Hospital Admissions (roughly a 3-week lag behind new cases)